The Knicks finally announced officially that Phil Jackson will take over as president of the Knicks. But now the real work begins.
The team isn’t in a good position immediately, so don’t expect a quick change. The team’s salary cap situation is too compromised thanks to Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to make a big signing.
So what can Jackson do?
We look at the Top 5 moves Jackson needs to make to turn things around for the Knicks …
1. Re-sign Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony has had a love-hate relationship with Knicks fans since joining the team in February 2011. Few people will debate whether Anthony is one of the top pure scorers in the league. But he’s never been part of a championship-winning team in the NBA and he’s never been all that close. Still, Jackson needs to bring back Anthony. Teams need multiple stars in this day and age and Stoudemire and Chandler are not going to get it done. Anthony has the ability to opt out of his final year with the Knicks this offseason. It seems like a given he will from his own indications. The biggest issue will be convincing Anthony that Jackson has a plan in place. If he does, a re-signing should be inevitable.
2. Find a coach
Jackson didn’t dismiss current head coach Mike Woodson at his introductory press conference, but the writing is already on the wall. ESPN has reported Jackson would like to bring in one of his guys. And it can’t help that owner James Dolan outright admitted at the press conference that he first approached Jackson about becoming head coach in December. If I’m Woodson, I wouldn’t be particularly disappointed to pack it up and call it a day. But who will Jackson replace him with? The names that immediately come to mind are former pupil Steve Kerr and former assistants Kurt Rambis, who briefly coached the Timberwolves, and Brian Shaw, who coaches the Nuggets.
3. Find a second scorer
When Jackson admitted at his presser that the rebuild will take some time, he was referring to the salary cap situation and the wait for the 2015 class of free agents. The disappointing news for Knicks fans is the 2014-15 team will look very similar to this year’s underachieving lot — assuming Anthony is back. The team actually has more money locked up next year ($91.2 million) than they do this year ($87.7 million). But Stoudemire is due $23.4 million next year and then he’s mercifully off the books. Chandler is due $14.6 million in 2014-15 and he’s mercifully off the books. Andrea Bargnani is also due $12 million next season then will be a free agent. So with about $50 million freed up in the 2015 offseason, they’ll have plenty of room in the shopping cart. All Stars Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Roy Hibbert and Kyrie Irving will all be on the open market.
4. Change the culture
It will help to have the underachieving Stoudemire off the roster, but Jackson also needs to get rid of J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton. The pair has done nothing but bring down the chemistry of this team in 2013-14. Felton has two more years on his deal, but he may be in jail for all we know. Smith is also locked up until 2015-16, but he doesn’t make so much money (about $6 million) that he couldn’t be traded or bought out. His on- and off-court antics have been tiring for two years, but at least last year he was an important contributor. Ever since being suspended in the opening round of last year’s playoffs he’s been a total bum. It’s time to bring in good character players as well as good talent.
5. Be all in
Only Jackson himself knows how much he’s investing in this job. His opening press conference wasn’t 100 percent encouraging, but he did say he would be living in New York at least part time. Still, all of his connections — including significant other Jeanie Buss, who is part of the Lakers’ ownership group — are in Los Angeles. He admitted he would be spending time out West for his medical issues — he’s had five surgeries on his knees and hip — and routinely missed road trips as a coach later in his career. He also has a huge ranch in Wyoming where he likes to spend time. If he expects to spend limited time in New York and still be all in, he has a problem. But Jackson admitted he signed a five-year deal, so the infamously fickle Jackson at least plans to be here long-term. Let’s see if he sticks to it.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.